Monthly Archives: February 2013

The real world of the bedtime story

When I see our little cat cuddled up and snuggled up in her warm place like this,Snuggled

I always think “Snugglepot “or “Cuddlepie”.  Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are the main characters in a classic book from my childhood. They are not cats but fictitious Gumnut  babies. The book is The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, written and illustrated by May Gibbs. A Classic

So, why does a sleeping cat make me think of  Gumnuts?  I am not entirely sure. My mind works in strange ways, but there are three possibilities.  The first is the cuteness factor. Here are Snugglepot and Cuddlepie sleeping in their” second-hand houses”.Snuggled and Cuddled

And, here, they are overlooking a busy highroad. Snugglepot is helping himself to a grassroot bun. Secure

How cute are those illustrations!

The second possibility is to do with comfort, or a type of security blanket factor.

My siblings and I were lucky to grow up with  the comfort and security of bedtime stories. I don’t remember Snugglepot and Cuddlepie  being read to me but I do remember being cuddled up next to my sister, at bedtime, and reading it to her.   I associate Snugglepot and Cuddlepie with sweet and gentle times and the notion “That all will be well”.  Just as the sight of a peacefully resting cat reassures me that there must be a rightfulness to life, even if I can’t always see it.

The third possibility is the joy factor.  Both cat and book make me smile for the sheer joy of their existence. How can one frown at the sight of a sleeping cat? How can one not be amused and entertained by the humour and sensibility  in May Gibbs’ text. Here is an example of her writing; ” Gumnut Editors generally write backwards, because they say it takes longer to read that way, and the people think they are getting more news.” (Even back then the Press was trying to pull the wool over our eyes!)

And here is a piece from Snugglepot’s story. “Down, down, down he tumbled, right through the window into an Ant’s house. A tired night-nurse saw him coming, but before she could do anything he had crashed in and killed several babies. This was a blessing for Snugglepot, but it was sadly hard on the baby ants. “I’m so sorry,” said Snugglepot. “It can’t be helped,” said the Nurse. “What will their mother say?”, asked Snugglepot, brushing tears from his eyes. ” She won’t know,” said the Nurse, ‘ we have three hundred babies in the house.”

And I love the request from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie at the beginning of the book which reads ” Humans, Please be kind to all Bush Creatures and don’t pull flowers up by the roots.”

May Gibbs( 1877-1969)( was Australia’s first full-time, professionally trained children’s book illustrator. She developed a uniquely Australian fantasy world . The first book about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was published in 1918. May Gibbs not only brought great stories to children but, in her will, she remembered them by bequeathing the copyright from the designs of her bush characters and her stories to Northcott Disability Services and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance of New South Wales, Australia. The rest of her estate was left to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.


No caterpillars, no computer, no butterflies, no earrings; just Swans!

My faithful five-year old laptop decided to have a tantrum last week, followed by a meltdown. Ditto for me when it happened. I am hapless and brainless without my technology. My son kindly agreed to lend me his laptop until mine is repaired ( hopefully it  is repairable ). It is  wonderful to have a laptop again but my son’s is so  much newer than mine that I hardly know what to do with it. It makes me feel as though I am back in school struggling with long division.

However, in the spirit of having a go, here is my first attempt at a post from a strange (to me) laptop.

The caterpillars on my swan plants are no more. They are all in their cocoon stage. One of the cocoons looks almost ready to be a butterfly  The others are still cogitating and storing up memories. The swan plants are putting out new leaves and, at the same time, they are producing the swans that give them their name.

Here are the swans; not sure if they get any more swan like  when the seed balloons open. Apparently the seeds have silky tufts.Little green swan

Closer swanSwan

The swans and the cocoons make me think of pretty earrings which is, perhaps, why I almost bought a pair of pearl drop earrings this afternoon.  Almost; they weren’t very expensive, for pearl earrings, but I thought, “No, that money will pay for a laptop assessment. Restrain your impulse shopping!” So, I came home, minus new earrings, to write this post.

All done; time for dinner 🙂

© silkannthreades

My new lodger

Yesterday’s adventurous lone long ranger, the monarch caterpillar, is now my new lodger. It is settled in to its cocoon and is safely attached to the brick work at my front door.  It is in an ideal position for me to keep an eye on it. Thank you, little critter, for choosing my home for your confinement.Getting settledIn my corner

Footnote: I must remember to put a DO NOT DISTURB sign next to my lodger before the window cleaner comes tomorrow.

© silkannthreades

Lone long ranger

Yesterday I read a fascinating post on the theme of Wanderlust in far off South America. ( ) Little did I expect that, this morning, I would witness something very like Wanderlust at my own front door.

Here it is; a solitary monarch caterpillar climbing up the brick facade of the house.Onward and upward

What possessed this little creature  to travel at least 15 metres from the other caterpillars and cocoons. Why was it not happy to stay near the others and the security of the swan plants and other vegetation? Does moving to the hot bricks of my front door, give it a competitive advantage? Or is it just an insatiably curious caterpillar full of wanderlust and the spirit of adventure?  Who are you?How far will I wander?Tomorrow I will see if there is a cocoon decorating my bricks, or if the caterpillar has continued its wandering lone, long ranger journey.

© silkannthreades

Scenes from a summer’s morn

There’s nothing like a beautiful summer’s morning to enjoy the green grass of home.Relaxing with my bro' on guardSome prefer the sun,Sun seeker

whilst some prefer the shade.When are you going to turn the water on?

Besides, the shade is closer to the fence and the fence is closer to mysteries which need a good barking to.  Shall I bark?

More sensible creatures know that the mysteries of life are best dealt with by a relaxed attitude (with paws at the ready, just in case!)Relax, my bro', take it easy© silkannthreades

A place setting for restful memories

I had a couple of  dizzy spells during the weekend.  I didn’t, and don’t, feel unwell, so maybe the dizziness was caused by insufficient fluid intake or, perhaps, it was my body telling me to put my feet up for a while. I was going to say “telling me to slow down” but I don’t go very fast anyway .If I went any slower I would come to a stand still. However, in my slow way, I potter around a great deal and rarely sit down except for meals or when I am driving.

To appease the Gods of Dizzy, on  Saturday I had a rest on the sofa which the dog thought was wonderful. “Yay, she’s sitting still. We can snuggle” seemed to be the message from a delighted pooch. Yesterday, I went to the hairdresser where I had a lovely sit down for 30 minutes. And, today, I am forcing myself to sit down at the computer. Usually, I stand to work at the computer. Why? Bad habits, I suppose. And it’s easier to multi task that way.

So, although I am feeling fine and undizzy today, I do feel in need of quiet and one thing that says quiet to me is this photo that I took, last year, in my pre-blogging days. Be StillIn the photo, you can see a small breakfast set that I have had for more than 30 years. (It’s been with me longer than my husband!) Why does this say “quiet” to me on this day?  I am not sure. Is it the design, the colours, the shapes or the associations? Or all of these things?

The set  certainly takes me back to a time, and a place, where putting up your feet  and having a relaxing daytime nap were considered  a normal part of a lady’s daily routine. Memories of my colonial childhood in the tropics are full of images of mothers (not mine!) who were not to be disturbed during their afternoon siesta. Children were required to play quietly. That might have been boring, but we soon realised that  quietly didn’t have to be synonymous with staying out of mischief. Although we were well-behaved, most of the time.  I can only remember being told off once for being too noisy and disturbing a napping mother.  And it really wasn’t my fault, it was my friend’s! 🙂

And that is all I will write because today is for quiet moments and memories and contemplation.

China note: The pattern is Mayflower and the china is made by Figgio of Norway.

Ageing treefully

If I want to understand how to age well, I need look no further than our heritage trees. As each decade passes, they grow more and more beautiful. They thrive as they mature. Their foundations become firmer, their trunks and limbs, with a little judicious pruning, grow stronger, and they stand tall, and mostly straight, with body and tree memory in tact. How do they do it?

In my previous post, I wrote about the oldest exotic tree in Christchurch which can be found in the grounds of Riccarton House. Although the tree is well over 150 years old , it is thriving and bearing fruit.  There are many other notable trees around Riccarton House. One of the” younger” heritage trees is the magnificent Weeping Lime which was planted in 1855.

Here are some images of the Weeping Lime. It was hard to capture the size of the tree. And equally difficult was obtaining a photo  which caught the wondrous green tent created by the weeping branches. It was so lovely under the canopy that I wanted to lie down next to the trunk and dream away the afternoon.Weeping Lime

A few metres away from this tree of loveliness, is a special protected area known as Riccarton Bush. It is home to the last remnant of 300,000 years of floodplain forests and is possibly the oldest protected area in New Zealand. In Riccarton Bush we have the privilege of experiencing  primeval forest in the midst of an urban landscape. Whilst the exotic trees amaze me with their age, the native, primeval forest is truly incredible. Inside Riccarton Bush there are kahikatea trees which are 600 years old. I didn’t have time to photograph these trees but here is a glimpse of the entrance to the protected area and the start of the walkway through the Bush.

First the predator proof fence,

Predator proof fence

then the predator proof gate,Are you a predator?

and onward to a wonderland. Wonderland

John Deans, farmer and lover of trees, who settled at Riccarton Bush, requested before his far too early death in 1854, that this native area should be preserved and protected.  The family honoured his wishes and now our city does too.

So, back to my question. How do trees age so well?

Here’s a few my thoughts: they source their food locally; they consume only what they need ( have you ever seen an overweight tree?); they exercise moderately apart from the occasional vigorous workout in a gale;  they engage with their environment and are open branched and hospitable, and giving; they are even-tempered (ever seen a tree giving out the equivalent of road rage even when we pick at its leaves, carve its bark, leave our rubbish about , are loud and abusive within its presence, and climb all over it?);  they are tolerant and share their shade equally with the least and the greatest; they are creative (look at their intricate shapes and textures); and they know how to adapt  and incorporate and store each year’s learnings into a type of wisdom and knowledge that ensures they will survive and thrive for centuries. And as with people, trees age even better if we offer them love, affection, freedom and dignity to age at their own pace.  Wow! I am going back to the Weeping Lime some time soon to see if ,by standing under its canopy, I can breathe in some more of  the art of ageing treefully.

© silkannthreades

The oldest exotic tree

Yesterday I poached pears and made a pear cake using pears from my neighbour’s tree. Pears without peach and plum

With my mouth and my mind very involved with pears, I decided that, today, I would visit the oldest exotic tree in Christchurch, and that tree happens to be a pear tree.

Here it is; the French Durondeau Pear tree planted in 1846.Durondeau Pear 1846

It was planted by the Deans brothers in their flourishing orchard in the grounds of Riccarton House. Only, at that time, there was no Riccarton House, just the Deans Cottage which was built in 1843.  The Deans supplied fruit and vegetables and young trees to the main body of settlers who arrived in 1850.

I find it hard to believe that the Durondeau is so old. Not only older than other exotic trees but older than most of our buildings.  To my eyes, it remains vigorous and strong.  Looking good

It still bears fruit.Pears in a pear tree I picked up one of the free fall pears.  I hope it will ripen. I am curious to know what it will taste like. Many of the other trees planted by the Deans, including John’s wife, Jane,  are still flourishing and are now notable and protected trees.Care for the Trees please

The story of John and Jane Deans is a lovely, but sad, one for Valentine’s Day. They met in Scotland prior to 1841 near Jane’s family home at Auchenflower. John came to New Zealand in 1842. Ten years later he returned to Scotland to marry Jane at  Riccarton, Ayrshire, Scotland. They left Scotland in October 1852 and arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand, in February 1853. Jane gave birth to their only child in August 1853. Her husband John, died in June 1854.  Jane could have returned to Scotland but she stayed on, and with support from her family, continued to develop Riccarton house and farm and carry out her husband’s wishes for the preservation of Riccarton Bush. She was a remarkable woman.

© silkannthreades

Challenging my thinking

I have been feeling a teeny bit  frustrated in recent days because I have a long list of lovely things I want to do and places I want to go, but my gallivanting has been curtailed by domestic activities. The domestic chores are not arduous, or even unpleasant , so why the frustration, I ask myself?  Is it because I am dividing the world in to pleasant and unpleasant, fun and duty, good and bad?  Is it the  old  “you can only play (happy times) once you have done your homework ( dutiful times)” syndrome niggling away in my brain? A variation of the  punishment and reward system that pervades our thinking and our society. Perhaps…..

In an attempt to eliminate frustration and refresh my  thinking, I decided that today I would challenge myself to make the domesticities of  my day as fun and inspiring as my gallivanting.  Here’s a sample of my day’s domestic amusements.

I read the newspaper.I read the news today

I poached some pears.Poached pears

I hung out the washing.Pretty in Pink

I made lunch and enjoyed a cup of my favourite Trade Aid coffee.Coffee Time

I made a pear cakePear Cake

and a loaf of herb bread.Basil Bread

I did some shopping,Shopping by the Bucketful

after which I did a few rows of knitting and read a few pages of the book I was given for Christmas Knitting and Wisdom

Then it was time to bring in the washing, cook the dinner and feed the animals and  walk the dog……..but that’s enough photos for one day.

So , how did I go with my challenge? I had fun. My frustration levels are lower but ,deep down, I suspect that, no matter how hard I try, doing the laundry will never be as inspiring as walk in the park. But, who knows, if I keep challenging myself, anything is possible!


I deliberately chose to photograph the section of the newspaper that covers the State of the Nation report by the Salvation Army. The report says that the Government is not doing enough to reduce child poverty, create jobs or improve housing affordability.  I have not read the report itself but it seems to me that we all need to challenge our thinking on social justice. Our  social policies, put in place, over the years, by the people we vote for, appear to be rooted in the same old punishment and reward type ideologies which have haunted our society forever and a day. This  means that people are inevitably assessed and judged as worthy  or unworthy  of support. The end result is our current society where violent offences against children have increased by 84% in the five years up to July 2012.

© silkannthreades

A Place of our Own in the Woods

I wanted to take some photos in the central city yesterday but, thanks to road works and deviations, I failed to reach my intended destination. I finally ended up at  Little Hagley Park where  I was able to recuperate and recover my senses.

Little Hagley ParkLittle Hagley ParkAlthough, our central city buildings  and roads are in a state of upheaval (or heaved over in some cases), and out of kilter like this bridge on Helmores Lane,  Broken Bridgewe are able to  salvage our sanity  in places like  Little Hagley Park.  We are so lucky that, approximately a few hundred metres from demolition and digging, and a major city road, we can lose ourselves in solitude and calm.

Under the trees at Little Hagley Park, we can feel far removed from the busyness of city living.

In the woods

In  every direction there is a  peaceful wooded view. This is the view, looking across the Avon, from Little Hagley Park  to Millbrook ReserveQuiet Reserve

And this is the view from the Reserve, looking across the Avon, to Little Hagley Park.Looking out from Quiet Reserve

Thanks to our first city planners and all the many wonderful landscapers, planners,  gardeners and hard workers who came after, we can believe, for a moment or more, that each of us has a place of our own in the woods, in the city.  A place in the Woods

© silkannthreades